When I look back at the past generation of home consoles, there are plenty of games that fall into my list of all-time favourites. From Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed to more recent hits such as XCOM and The Last Of Us, for the past several years we’ve been spoilt for choice when it comes to great games, be they indie or AAA. However the ones I remember most fondly are those classics that would suck in me for hours, day after day, week after week, simply refusing to let go. Among this niche crowd is DICE’s Battlefield: Bad Company.
Arriving soon after Call of Duty’s breakthrough fourth instalment, it’s hard to believe that Bad Company launch more than six years ago. It marked a new direction for EA’s modern military franchise and dared to be different, making – in my opinion – one of the best first person shooters of the past decade.
In truth, the genre hasn’t really progressed much since 2008. Following Call of Duty’s runaway success, many studios have focused their efforts on trying to recreate its groundbreaking success: that captivating formula or tight controls and seamless multiplayer action. Luckily for DICE, Bad Company was already way into development when Activision deployed its power-selling behemoth. Therefore, it was never built from the ground-up as a counterattack or reaction, meaning it didn’t have to conform to the genre’s newly established standards.
Of course, that wasn’t the only thing working in its favour. For many years DICE had already been working on the Battlefield franchise, including the development of Battlefield 2: Modern Combat on XBOX 360 and PlayStation 2. On top of that, the Swedish studio was keen to show off what it could do on the latest gaming hardware.
This led to the birth of the Frostbite Engine, its latest iteration having been used in both Battlefield 4 and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Aside from delivering impressive visuals, the tech also allowed for environmental destruction on a level we had never seen before.
Peeling myself away from Call of Duty 4, I was more than ready to write Bad Company off. Its slower pace, bigger maps, and focus on vehicles gave it a completely different feel over its rival. This was accentuated more by the fact that players could blast holes through walls and even tear whole buildings down. It’s something we often take for granted now, but back then it felt truly innovative.
One area in which Call of Duty 4 definitely excelled was its single player campaign. Though it conveyed a fairly straightforward plot delivered by one-dimensional characters, those six or seven hours had plenty of memorable moments. Arguably, the same can be said of Bad Company’s campaign but, as a whole, it felt far less cohesive and suffered despite its fairly robust and off-the-wall approach to storytelling.
It may sound silly, especially when you look at games today, but Bad Company’s sense of scale felt counter-intuitive. Set pieces were few and far between, padded out with growingly repetitive tank battles and on-foot skirmishes. Don’t get me wrong, the game handled beautifully but in the end its single player offering often felt spartan, as though it were a training ground for its superb online multiplayer.
When it comes to games like Battlefield: Bad Company, you really had to be there at the time to get the full experience. Now, more than half a decade since its release, the game is still playable offline, but its online servers have been officially closed by EA. Sure, there have been subsequent Battlefield games to fill the void, though none have quite managed it, at least not in my opinion. Hopefully one day DICE will resurrect the popular spin-off series. That, or give life to another in house experimental mutation.